Ebola virus: Why estimates run from 20,000 cases to more than a million

Friday, September 26, 2014
By Paul Martin

The projected impact of Ebola on West Africa differed radically between health agencies this week, owing to differences in method and models and over the use of factors like ‘underreporting.’ Some health officials say high estimates help bring needed attention.

By Ariel Zirulnick
September 26, 2014

Nairobi, Kenya — After a week of attention-grabbing Ebola headlines, including urgent calls for action from President Barack Obama, it’s clear the international community recognizes the virus as a serious threat.

But how serious a threat is unclear. The dizzying array of projections, including this week’s from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC), places projected cases anywhere between 151,000 and 1.4 million. The radically different estimates complicate everything from assessing the effectiveness of interventions to how to parcel out aid.

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